Bledisloe Cup: New Zealand v Australia, Wellington
Tom Taylor urged to control All Blacks
August 23, 2013
Tom Taylor hopes to inspire in deed as well as in words © Getty Images
Tom Taylor can't be afraid to "boss" All Blacks players of whom he may have once been in awe, fullback Israel Dagg says.
The spotlight will focus on the rookie playmaker, and how he handles his Test debut at five-eighth against Australia in Wellington on Saturday, with both teams quizzed relentlessly on the topic this week. Dagg, a teammate of Taylor for two seasons at the Crusaders, advised the fly-half to rely on his natural instincts and to speak up despite being surrounded by veterans.
"He's a young guy coming into a new environment but I told him to boss the boys around," Dagg said. "It doesn't matter who they are. The forwards are pretty small-headed; they don't really know what to do. I think he'll have nerves but I've told him to relax and back his game because he's a quality player."
Taylor, 24, is effectively the All Blacks' fourth-choice five-eighth after Dan Carter was ruled out ahead of the opening Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney and Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett were injured during New Zealand's 47-29 win at ANZ Stadium. But he aims to guide the team in word and in deed. "As a 10, you need to tell people what to do," he said. "But I also like to think I lead by my actions as well."
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said that Taylor's promotion ahead of 10-Test veteran Colin Slade hinged on his superior goal kicking - he slotted 17 from 19 as the Crusaders' second-string placekicker behind Carter in Super Rugby this year - but Dagg said that his general play was under-rated. Dagg said that Taylor had impressed in midfield with his acceleration, footwork and passing - all skills which he said transferred well to the playmaking role.
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Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, meanwhile, said the Australians had expected to see Taylor selected ahead of Slade, even though he had played just one pre-season friendly as a No.10 this year. "He's a good player ... a 90% goal kicker, and is going to bring something to the table," McKenzie said. "He'll be very determined."
Wallabies vice-captain Will Genia said that Australia would do everything possible to unsettle the debutant in order to trigger a shaky All Blacks performance. "We have to," Genia said. "He has only played 12 so from our point of view we want to put as much pressure on him as we can and see how he deals with it. "We'll see how he copes with the decision-making and with controlling their game."
Wallabies skipper James Horwill said: "A guy on debut, in a play-making position, you always have to test out. But he wouldn't be there if he wasn't good enough."